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Detect spam-like referrals in your GA data with Auditor

August 27, 2021

                              Written by Sriram

Starting in 2019, one of our clients reported a startling finding in their Google Analytics reports: monthly sessions had increased by a whopping 135%! This increase was far beyond the normal month-on-month variance that they normally observed. However, conversions had not shown any similar increase.

This was a very strange scenario because the client had not run any campaigns that could explain the increase. They had also not grown into new markets. So what caused this traffic jump?

Compounding the problem was that this is a Google Analytics 360 customer. That meant the client was paying for this traffic but could not account for it. So the client turned to Sparkline to pinpoint the issue to reduce their hit volume.

After eliminating traffic from campaigns and geographies, Sparkline discovered that the additional sessions were from traffic sources that resembled spam. These came from referral sources that had randomly-generated domain names, such as “snwvdynatof.com” and “erlafeedsor.top”. Also, each of these sources would generate a lot of hits in one day (or two days at most), then “disappear” forever.

These spam-like sessions caused two problems for the team:

  • Metrics that depend on sessions (in particular, e-commerce conversion rate) reported an artificial performance decrease. The analysts needed to use segments to filter out the spam traffic, so as to be able to report the true numbers.
  • However, the names of the spam sources kept changing randomly, so the analysts wasted time setting up and updating their segments to filter out new spam sources as they were discovered.

But how could our client — or anyone, really — find out about these spam-like sources without discovering them manually?

Sparkline turned to our Auditor, the industry’s first full-featured web analytics auditing tool. This tool has been in the market for more than 2 years. It runs more than 70 tests in 3 minutes to identify problems that cause bad data to be collected in web analytics tools.

Our latest update to Auditor allowed our customers to identify traffic sources that resembled spam. Auditor scans the traffic patterns from these sources and highlights those that exhibit spam-like behavior.

Of course, not all sources that resemble spam are really spam, so some legitimate sources would be highlighted to. Auditor presents a list of the top 50 suspicious sources (sorted by pageviews) to the customer. From there, it can take action on the findings, for example, by filtering out these sources in their Google Analytics views.

And no manual intervention is needed throughout the auditing process!

In our client’s case, we were successfully able to identify the spam sources regularly. This allowed the client to apply segments that excluded traffic from these sources. Their resulting reports now showed the true traffic to their site, with the corresponding corrected conversion rates.

If you’re plagued by spam traffic and wish you could know about them quickly, give Sparkline’s Auditor a try. Contact Sparkline for more information.